Clarity in the Fog and Darkness

Some celebrity said or tweeted an attack on Christians and their prayers yesterday as the bodies of the church shooting victims were barely cold. I would like to point out, beyond the non-surprising, obvious bigotry on the “star’s” part, that looking at the flaming open sewer that is Hollywood, I wonder where he is getting his credibility.

You can’t beat something with nothing. Hollywood has nothing to speak into the growing darkness in America. They ARE the darkness and confusion – the merchants of it to every home that will let them in. The ever-new, laser clarity of Psalm 1 says all that is needed, as we see moral anarchy worsening almost weekly. However discouraged we become, this is eternal light and truth for our path, for the few who want it:

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Psalm 1

Counterfeits are everywhere, and the danger is especially acute in Christianity. But we know this – the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly will perish. This passage from Malachi is so beautiful:

“Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

“On the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him.

“And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays…”

~ verses from Malachi 3-4

Treasures of Darkness

It’s 3am and blinding pain from one of my killer headaches wakes me from sleep. I stagger to the kitchen as quietly as possible and pour water into the Keurig to make a quick 20 oz of coffee. The only thing that helps.

The house is silent. Tom and Emily are  deep in sleep. I sit with the coffee, trying not to burn myself on the hot liquid–medicine for me that I can’t get down fast enough. I rock back and forth, back and forth in my rocker,  waiting for the moment when my head will ease.

The worst of the pain lets up, and I can think again. My mind drifts to each of my children and where they are in their lives.  The relief from the pain is growing, and every time, it brings tears to my eyes that I am feeling better. It’s some kind of response to the dissipation of pain and it happens every time. I pray for answers and help in our lives for a few minutes. Then I feel the need for a human voice. I pick up my phone next to me on the lamp table and find Alexander Scourby’s reading of the Psalms. The beauty and authority of his reading of Scripture is always a great comfort. I put my head back on the chair and listen to him begin.

 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.  For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Somewhere in the Psalms that continue in Scourby’s lovely voice , I drift off to the familiar cadences of those beautiful, ancient words.  Relief, peace, the sense that God is near.

I recently saw a painting that depicted Jesus sitting on a bench with a young man. It was supposed to represent heaven, and the young man appeared to be asking questions. It made me wonder if we will be able to ask the Lord questions about this life and why things were the way they were. All the seemingly pointless suffering, meaningless pain and hurt.  Then it occurred to me that if we were going to remember the bad in this life, it wouldn’t be much of a heaven. Every tear, Scripture tells us, will be wiped away in that place where there is no need of the sun, because the light of the Lamb will be enough.  No more darkness. No more night.

I can’t pretend to understand what all our pain means in this life, only that in the darkness, in the night watches there are unexpected shafts of light, reminders of God, the God beloved of the Psalmist who played his harp beneath the starry skies on the hills, who wrote the words we still know today. Maybe in the bright light of day we are too quick to forget God, and it’s only when He allows us to awaken with pain that we are reminded of His presence. When we’re always strong, and able, and go from strength to strength in our own might, we tend to forget Him.  In our great need, we are driven to remember our frailty, that we are dust, and that all we have comes from our Creator’s kindly hand.

In the night watches of our lives, help us to find the treasures of darkness, Heavenly Father. Because they are there, waiting for us.

And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness–secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name. ~ Isaiah 45:3

night

 

 

 

 

 

House with the Yellow Door

20161117_100215Tom has a tradition of planting trees at our homes (we have lived in six in 21 years.) He also has had a tradition of painting our doors a warm red color. The red was inviting, I think.  At our house in South Carolina, he also painted the shutters to match. The shutters had been a dull gray color, and it was a perfect color change for curb appeal.

At our snug ranch house where we moved last year, Tom is getting around to various projects, including putting up shutters a few weeks ago (a good improvement) and painting the bland, white front door. We were going to use red again, but Tom unexpectedly showed me a yellow color on a paint card. Against the white-ish brick on the front of the house, it looked cheerful and bright. So we now have a yellow door.

Every time I pull up to the house, it makes me smile. Along with the field stone borders he put around the little pines he planted and the same border under the Magnolia tree, it makes for a neat front yard.

We have such nice neighbors here. Emily is dear friends with our nearest neighbors whose little granddaughter comes over to play, in addition to the family on the other block who are friendly and helpful. Then there is the lady across the street who comes over with her little dachshund she adopted. Each day she comes by after school for Emily (as she did in the summer), and they take the little dog for a walk. I think Emily is good company for the lady and the dog, once very shy,  is warming up.

By contrast, the political scene has never been uglier in our country. Social media is filled with the carnage. I read the news and try to digest what is going on and end up depressed and discouraged. Whichever way the election would have gone, this was a guaranteed scenario with great anger on one side or the other. In spite of victory laps from political conservatives, I remain convinced this nation is in terrible peril. There are no political answers in this divided country, ultimately. I believe that more than ever. The answer is spiritual, but nobody is interested in that subject at present.  They await miracles from the new political messiah. We will see.

My news about our cheery yellow door isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but I thought of it as a metaphor in these dark times. As I have said before, life is really lived in the micro sphere of every day things and people. If Hillary Clinton had won and not Donald Trump, we would still get up every morning and do the little things that make up our lives. The little dachshund would still live across the street with her humans, Emily would still be found talking to the neighbors and making new friends all the time, and I would still spend my days making a home for my family as best I can.

I have learned that to be happy, we have to make a choice to be that way. There is a great deal of evil in the world, more now than ever.  We have all had wounds and hurt from that evil in our lives, some more than others. The losses evil people can cause are undeniable. Among so-called Christians, I am sorry to say that indifference, coldness and brutality are no less prevalent. Those perpetrating it and those who watch silently as enablers seem to go from strength to strength while their victims long for things to be made right. But, having said that, happiness and cheerfulness is still a choice. This is the only life we have, the one God gave us. I believe God does see the injustice and the evil, and in His time, He will vindicate, He will deal with those who have so disregarded His commands to love. Meanwhile, we are called to live in the light.

So don’t hesitate to “paint your door yellow.” Or to put it another way, smile just because, be thankful for what you have, and do a little happy dance, if nothing else, in defiance of the joy killers who seem to so populate the earth these days. I do that. I am home alone a great deal. I put on music sometimes when I am down. My kitchen has a big slippery, laminate  floor, and Em and I do our own dances in our socks until we laugh ourselves silly. Last night, we listened to Sleigh Ride and several other Christmas songs (I know, I know, it isn’t Thanksgiving yet.)  Whatever you do, don’t give in to the darkness. God is the author of joy, not despair. God is in His heaven still. By looking up and not around us, we can remember that best.

Morning Song

My songbird was up early and cheered my heart today. This is what she sang out in the kitchen in the first stanza. (She’s learning this at school.)  There is good counsel in this hymn, written in 1734, Stanza 3 is particularly fitting today with all the fear and tumult on the political scene in our country.

With the Lord begin your task;
Jesus will direct it.
For his aid and counsel ask;
Jesus will perfect it.
Every morn with Jesus rise,
And when day is ended,
In his name then close your eyes;
Be to him commended.

Let each day begin with prayer,
Praise, and adoration.
On the Lord cast every care;
He is your salvation.
Morning, evening, and at night
Jesus will be near you,
Save you from the tempter’s might,
With his presence cheer you.

With the Savior at your side,
Foes need not alarm you;
In his promises confide,
And no ill can harm you.
All your trust and hope repose
In the mighty master,
Who in wisdom truly knows
How to stem disaster.

If your task by thus begun
With the Savior’s blessing,
Safely then your course will run,
Toward the promise pressing.
Good will follow every where
While you here must wander.
You at last the joy will share
In the mansions yonder.

Hymn # 483
Lutheran Worship
Author: Peter Frank
Tune: Fang Dein Werk
1st Published in: 1734

songbird

For Your Day

For 20 years, since I discovered its riches, the oratorio, Elijah, by Mendelssohn, has been a source of comfort and hope. From the opening chorus of, “Help, Lord!” through all of it’s Scripture-laden content, it is the story of a people in need of God’s help and deliverance. And it’s the story of how God did deliver. This aria, sung by a young boy in this rendition, is one of my favorites. Direct instruction. “Rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him, and He will give you your heart’s desire.”

 

Broken Places, New Again

There’s a story behind me posting this video clip below. A couple of years ago, I was in a very discouraged place. A number of things had happened to our family in a short space of time that shattered much around us that we valued. I often felt that God was silent.

One night I was watching hymns on YouTube and came across this clip. Previously, I have found such strength in hymns and songs of faith, and that night was no different. The words of the song below were:

Be still for the presence of the Lord
The Holy One is here
Come bow before Him now
With reverence and fear
In Him no sin is found
We stand on holy ground
Be still for the presence of the Lord
The Holy One is here

Be still for the glory of the Lord
Is shining all around
He burns with holy fire
With splendor He is crowned
How awesome is the sight
Our radiant King of light
Be still for the glory of the Lord
Is shining all around

Be still for the power of the Lord
Is moving in this place
He comes to cleanse and heal
To minister His grace
No work too hard for Him
In faith receive from Him
Be still for the power of the Lord
Is moving in this place

The singer, Aled Jones, in the early part of the video is standing in a restored church, but as the video goes along, suddenly it shows a clip of him in the same place, several years earlier, when that abbey was an abandoned shell. It was such a broken down place that the windows were shattered, the roof was open to the elements and the interior ruined. When the dove flies upward, you see the results of the restoration of that same abbey. The broken windows are whole again. The roof is repaired, the interior beautiful once again.

While watching this video that night, it was impressed strongly on my mind, “That’s you, Ingrid. You’re broken down with all that has happened and the pain you’ve gone through. But God’s presence within restores and rebuilds. Your “windows” may be shattered, God will make new and better ones. Your “roof” is in disrepair, God will put a better one on. The interior which lies in ruins will be restored. God will do it.”

Despite times where evidence looks to the contrary, that is God’s specialty—restoring what looks like total ruination in us. He does it His way, and in His time. We can’t tell Him how to do it. It’s His work. It takes time. Like all restoration projects, it is not accomplished overnight. But in quiet hope and patience, with faith in the master Architect and Chief Contractor, the work is accomplished in our souls.

So this video is special to me. I want to share it again here at the Hope Blog.

“…Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27

 

“Take Care of Me!”

Last winter, a terrible walking pneumonia type illness swept the household. It knocked Will out for days, and then, despite our best efforts, Emily came down with the same bug.

She was miserable one night and came to find me in the kitchen. Throwing her arms up she suddenly cried, “Take care of me, Mama!” In one short, plaintive plea, all her longing for comfort came through.

As I swooped her up in my arms, I thought of how often the needs and misery in our lives force us to seek some kind of relief and solace. The cry, “take care of me” is never far from human lips. The healthiest among us can be felled by something so small it can only be seen by a microscope. Ugly surprises in life can bring down the most wealthy, successful and confident.

At those times the need for solace can drive people to find help and relief from a number of sources. Some try to find it in food, in busyness and constant motion, in the noise of news or entertainment media, booze, drugs, sex, shopping and a million other things. None of them will provide the real peace and comfort that is needed. Only God has what is needed at our deepest level. Everything else just medicates the symptoms.

At dark times in the life of a Christian, it can feel as though that cry, “Lord, take care of me!” is not answered. Long stretches of time where it seems as though there are no answers can damage the faith that your outstretched arms are even seen.

Then God does something so unexpected you are blown away. It may not be the specific answer you sought, it may not be anywhere close to the time frame that you had envisioned, but some other form of provision comes, some surprising way God reaches down to you and shows you, unmistakably, that He has seen your need and has provided.

We experienced that this week in our lives in a surprising, unexpected and frankly stunning provision by the Lord, a reminder that He does see the details of our lives and responds in love.

As a child of God, the only way to have needs met is to do what Emily did that night – to throw up our arms and cry out, “Lord, take care of me! I’m needy. I’m miserable. You alone have the answer!”

Emily’s simple trust that I would lift her up and care for her is the trust we need to have for our Savior. He alone has the answer to our needs in every area of our lives, and in tough times, we can find comfort that God is there, in the shadows, keeping watch over his own.